Franklin Graham On North Korea: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Commenting on my last post about the North Korea summit, Bbob wrote in part:

Trump’s base is euphoric. Sad commentary on the religious right.

I want so say something about right-wing Christians out there. As everyone should know, North Korea fiercely persecutes Christians. Fiercely. They are enemies of the state because they don’t worship Kim Jong-un. Some conservative estimates are that 50,000+ Christians are held captive in labor camps. For almost two decades North Korea has been ranked the worst place on Earth to be a Christian, the ranking made by an organization called “Open Doors.”

Now, just today Franklin Graham, evangelical “leader,” was asked about the Tr-mp-Kim summit. He was “very optimistic” about it, according to CBN:

“I think the North Koreans have been wanting to talk to the Americans for a long time and this is the first administration that they’ve been able to talk to directly like this,” the evangelist said.

Graham believes the North Koreans are a prideful people and that the Trump administration has engaged them well.

“The North Koreans just want to be shown respect and other administrations brushed them off like they were nothing,” he said.

Yes. A Christian preacher said that the Christian-killers in North Korea just need some respect. The same Christian preacher who, if Obama had behaved in Singapore the way Tr-mp did, would have asked for his head on a biblical platter. The same preacher who has mercilessly attacked Islam, advocated for a ban on Muslims entering the country long before Tr-mp did, and believes we are involved in a religious—Evangelical Christianity versus Islam—war.

The short of it is, and I can’t say this enough, we are front-seat observers of a nationwide cult, led by a disturbed and ignorant and self-absorbed authoritarian, zealously supported by right-wing Christians who believe God sent Tr-mp as a strange answer to an even stranger prayer—to trigger the End of the World.

 

Jackpot!

Shortly after the Tr-mp nightmare began, The Washington Post adopted the motto, “Democracy Dies In Darkness.

We should be so lucky.

After watching as much cable news coverage of the Singapore Follies as I could stand last night, and after watching the continuing coverage this morning, I am convinced that the West, and the democratic ideas and values associated with it, will not die in darkness, if indeed it does die. It will die, or at least be lost, in the glare of the bright lights of a highly-produced, highly-manipulative gala, a festive celebration of celebrity, a made-for-TV festival of propaganda.

That’s what the so-called North Korea summit was.

This morning, taking a few minutes away from what one on-air reporter called “the big event last night,” CNN was doing a segment on the enrichment of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner—a cool $80 million “earned” last year, part of it from the Tr-mp hotel in D.C. that foreigners patronize to win his favor. That potentially informative CNN segment was just getting off to a start when the reporter was interrupted by the host with “breaking news.” What was it? Oh, it was Kim Jong-un possibly getting ready to head to the airport. Anderson Cooper was summoned to narrate the amazing scene. Except there was nothing visual to show the folks at the moment and Cooper ushered viewers off to a commercial break. In disgust, I switched channels to MSNBC. Not long into a critical discussion of the reality-show summit, the on-air host interrupted the guest and narrated what was now a visual of Kim doing nothing but walking. Such absurdities, including the strange presence of a weeping Dennis Rodman last night, is among the reasons why I am sick this morning and as worried as I have ever been about our future.

Donald Tr-mp once ran casinos, before they went bankrupt. But in a way he is still running a casino, a big one from sea to shining sea. Everyone knows that the environment inside of casinos is carefully controlled. No windows. No clocks. No distractions from the matter at hand: separating you from your common sense so that the casino owner can pick your pocket with your permission. Consider this description:

A casino is a cacophony of wonderful and alluring stimulation: bells ringing, siren-like lights flashing, change clanging, slot wheels whirring, digital sounds beeping – it’s all captivating. Why is it captivating? Because it’s non-verbal communication saying, “Win! Win! Win!”. It gives the impression that everyone is indeed winning when, in reality, most are losing.

However, even as these people are losing, whatever machine they are on is still blaring out festive, euphoric sounds. It makes people want to get in on the action and become part of the winning as well. It’s such a happy place, how can I lose?! Everything is slick, burnished, and gleaming with a hypnotic draw to it. On some level, everyone, regardless if they are a big or small bettor, is attracted to these ostentatious displays of excess and flamboyance.

That’s how we will lose this thing, this fragile thing we call democracy. Bells will be ringing. Sirens will be sounding. Lights will be flashing. Wheels will be whirring. There will be digital beeping and, for some of us, the gnashing of teeth.

A thousand times last night and this morning, I bet I heard some variation of these phrases: “You have to give Donald Tr-mp credit” or “It’s a good thing these two leaders met” or “This was a big win for Tr-mp” or, as David Axelrod put it: “I applaud the president [sic] for pursuing diplomacy.” On top of all that, there was the constant use of the term “historic.” And I mean constant. Even if you had the sound down, you still saw the phrase on your screen: “HISTORIC MEETING.” As I said, it was sickening.

Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of criticism of what happened, or, really, what didn’t happen in Singapore. There were pundits who pointed out that North Korea is nothing but the world’s largest maximum security prison with a murderous warden who Tr-mp tried to elevate to an international star. There were pundits who pointed out the obvious fact that Kim was the real winner of this meeting between two cult figures, one a lying Stalinist and the other who is halfway there, having mastered the art of lying and apprenticing as a tyrant.

There were pundits who patiently explained that there was no substance to the meeting, nothing that hadn’t been promised by the North Koreans before as a way to buy time to continue developing their nuclear arsenal. There were pundits who lamented the lack of emphasis on human rights. There were pundits who noted that even if the impossible happened—denuclearization—that would not solve the problem of the massive amounts of conventional weapons that threaten our allies. And there were pundits who pointed out that, yes, this was a historic event precisely because no American leader had ever been stupid enough, or narcissistic enough, to give North Korea equal footing on a stage with the United States just to distract the gullible from his troubles with the law and other character deficiencies.

Image result for jackpotI said I am as worried as I have ever been about our future. And it’s not because of Tr-mp praising a ruthless killer like Kim, calling him honorable and trustworthy and smart and all that. I expected as much from Tr-mp, who orchestrated this madness just like the controlled madness on the floor of a casino.

I’m worried because we are now more than 500 days into this administration—into the larger madness. And journalists still don’t get it. They still don’t get how it all works. They haven’t yet figured out how to cover this freak of nature. Journalists can offer all the criticism of Tr-mp they want. They can debunk every false statement he makes. They can even call him a liar again and again. But as long as they do it from inside his casino, from inside the environment he has created, with all the bells and sirens and lights and wheels, not enough people will hear. They will only see and hear the “festive, euphoric sounds.” They will only see the “happy place” where losing is an afterthought. People really are attracted to “ostentatious displays of excess and flamboyance,” even if they are losing their rent money. No amount of good reporting, so long as it comes prefaced with phrases like “This was a win for Tr-mp” or “We have to give Tr-mp credit” or “This was a historic moment,” will dehypnotize those who crave the sights and sounds of the casino.

So, no, democracy will not die in darkness in the Tr-mp era, as long as journalists continue to broadcast and report from inside a superstructure deliberately designed to manipulate and distract and, more important, to optimize gullibility. Democracy, like that still, small voice of common sense that urges gamblers to go home before all is lost, will simply be ignored, drowned out by the intoxicating allure of JACKPOT!

 

Two Kinds Of Madmen

The precipitous and dangerous drama still unfolding between the United States and North Korea, essentially between Dim and Kim, was entirely predictable, for those of us who know how mentally unstable and sadly insecure Tr-mp is. And now that we are fairly confident that the North Koreans are farther along the path to being a nuclear power with ICBMs than most experts had previously estimated (funny how intelligence reports are not questioned by Tr-mp these days), the situation comes down to the decisions of two alleged madmen and whether one or the other or both will be restrained by reason.

For the purpose of this post, I want to define two kinds of madness that I believe is infecting the minds of the men who fate, or a nasty God, has put in charge of weapons of mass destruction. First there is Tr-mp. No need to go on at length about what ails him. His mental challenges have been discussed endlessly here and everywhere (see this 9-minute segment, “Real Doctors Diagnose Tr-mp”). One prominent psychologist, John Gartner, has pronounced him a “paranoid psychopathic narcissist,” for instance. But even if you are inclined to think that such a professional diagnosis is too wild in this case, you have to admit that you really don’t need a PhD to see that Tr-mp’s day-to-day behavior reveals some kind of severely disordered mind. That’s clear to even many of his followers, who seem to like that aspect of his personality, even if they call it something like “unpredictability.”

Then there is Kim Jong-un. If you have followed the news the last several days, you have seen or heard many people try to assess the mental state of Kim. Is he sane? Is he a madman? Is he a rational actor? The fact that no one seems to know for sure is what makes this drama so dumb and dangerous. Tr-mp himself told Philippine President Duterte that Kim “could be crazy.” If so, why tempt him to act on his craziness? Why talk like a middle-school bully and put the lives of millions at risk? What if Ivanka or Tr-mp’s two creepy older sons were living in Seoul? Would he tempt Kim with stupid bluster?

Back in April, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked chief of staff John Kelly (he was Secretary of Homeland Security at the time), “Do you think Kim Jong-un is mentally unbalanced?” Kelly said:

Oh, heck, I don’t know. He seems like someone who knows what he’s doing. I mean, clearly, the number one thing in his mind is to remain in power. I think in the dynamic of a dictatorship like that, he’s got to do that by convincing everyone around him—first of all holding them all in stark terror—and convincing everyone around him that he’s a strong man and is willing to stand up, and all the rest of the rhetoric. I think the only way to decide whether he’s insane or not is to lay him down on the couch and have a battalion’s worth of psychiatrists talk to him and figure it out.

So, Kelly says Kim “knows what he’s doing” but isn’t sure if he’s sane or insane. Okay, then. That clears that up.

Our relatively weak Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has his opinion, which, also in April, he offered to Fox “News”:

All indications…by intelligence agencies, and there have been a number of independent psychologists who have done analysis as best they can, all indications are that he is not crazy. He may be ruthless. He may be a murderer. He may be someone who in many respects we would say by our standards is irrational. But he is not insane.

That observation made me think of something G. K. Chesterton wrote in his book, Orthodoxy:

Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

That’s Kim Jung-un. Clearly, if you examine his behavioral history, you see a madman who has demonstrated no “sane affections.” He seems to only use reason in service to his maniacal pursuit of perpetual power and existence as an unchallengable cult figure to “his” people. Because there does seem to be potential for a transactional understanding with such a madman, there is some hope that diplomacy can somehow de-escalate the present situation until a more solid diplomatic effort (including help from the Chinese and other world players) can find a possible solution to the long-term problem of a nuclear North Korea with world-threatening ICBMs.

Image result for kim jong un and trump face swapThe problem is that Tr-mp, displaying the kind of madness not conducive to the patience of diplomacy, can’t keep his undisciplined mouth out of this situation. I reject the idea, advanced by some silly pundits, that there is a method to Tr-mp’s magniloquent madness, that he and his advisers have a “strategy” behind all the sophomoric bluster. No. To Tr-mp this is a reality TV test of wills—a game of chicken. Except it’s not Tr-mp sitting in the car, but millions of Koreans, North and South, who will pay the bloody price if Kim overreacts and takes the dare or if Tr-mp orders a foolish pre-emptive strike after a minor act of provocation. And that fact, that innocents will die unnecessarily, is what should be the focus of all the news coverage of this crisis.

What we have here is a sick man, acting foolishly as our commander-in-chief, playing a dangerous game with a North Korean madman devoid of natural human emotions. And if this ends without bloodshed this time, this drama will unfortunately have a sequel—unless we can rid ourselves of the madman on our side and then begin to exhaust all diplomatic and non-military solutions before we think the unthinkable.

Trump Jong-un

I prepared an entire post last night detailing some of the things Tr-mp has done since he assumed office—via executive orders that Republicans once condemned when the Kenyan issued them but suddenly find so constitutionally reassuring now that the Aryan’s name is attached. From his de facto tax on millions of “little guy” home buyers with FHA-backed mortgages—an order he signed before he took his first orange piss in the White’s House chamber pot by the way—to his attacks on Obamacare, his anti-abortion order signed while surrounded by fellow male Aryans, and other things that are just part of what will be a full-on assault on the New Deal and other programs that make for a more civilized country (which I will focus on as time goes by, as Republicans team with Tr-mp to realize their decades-old reactionary agenda).

I also was going to detail some other things happening, like a right-wing nut from Kansas, essentially owned by the Koch brothers, becoming the new CIA director, who may or may not revive those infamous “black sites” on orders from Tr-mp. Or the unsurprising story of how, throughout 2016,”Tr-mp Supporters Attacked, Harassed Or Plotted To Kill Muslims At Least 13 Times.” Or how the first bill Republicans in Congress will take up “is a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would make the procedure more expensive for women.” And on and on.

I scrapped that piece I wrote last night because of what happened this morning, when Tr-mp went off on Twitter announcing he “will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD…” Now, to their credit, almost all journalists this side of Herr Hannity pointed out that this whole thing is a Big Lie. There is obviously zero evidence for any significant voter fraud, especially on the scale Tr-mp is claiming. In fact, as some Democrats on television this morning pointed out, this whole Big Lie may very well be used as cover for eroding even further the voting rights of millions of Americans, especially if they don’t happen to be white. I am inclined to think that will be the end result, if not at the federal level, at the state level even beyond what has already happened.

But the biggest reason I think this Big Lie about voter fraud championed by Tr-mp is important is not just because of what it may lead to in the future, but what it tells us about the present. And by that I mean what it tells us about the state of Tr-mp’s mind. As I have said before, the man is sick. He is really, truly, sick in his head. I don’t mean that as provocative hyperbole. I don’t mean it as a partisan statement. I didn’t like Mitt Romney or his policies, but I never thought he was mentally ill. When I speak of Tr-mp being sick, I mean it as an honest interpretation of what we all have seen since June of 2015. I don’t think I need to go deep into that sordid history.

Obviously, I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, and even if I were I couldn’t ethically make an official diagnosis of his disorder from a distance. But here’s what I can do as a citizen who has been paying attention: judge him by his public actions and behavior. I’m entitled to do that. And my judgment is that he, as a human being, is to be pitied as a man with a damaged mind. I don’t know why he is so damaged, whether it be something in his background or something in his brain chemistry. And I don’t know exactly what to call what is wrong with him. But something is definitely messed up. Something serious. And it is dangerous because his damaged brain can now do so much damage to others. Thus, just because I pity him as a sick human being, I still have to do everything I can to unpresident him.

Before you judge me for judging Tr-mp, go look at a helpful Wikipedia page called “List of people claimed to be Jesus.” The list starts in the 18th century with the founder of the Shakers, Ann Lee. The list includes Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church in South Korea in 1954. Moon died in 2012. Jim Jones is on the list, the cult leader from Indiana who encouraged members of his “Peoples Temple” to kill themselves and murder their children in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978. Of the 918 people who died at Jonestown, almost 300 of them were children murdered by their parents or others. David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidian cult, is also on the list. He and dozens of his followers, and their children, were killed by a government raid in Waco, Texas, in 1993. All of the above people had some number of followers, people who believed in a messianic Big Lie.

The last name on Wikipedia’s list is Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez. He didn’t have any followers, as far as I know. Here is his entry:

In November 2011, he fired nine shots with an Romanian Cugir SA semi-automatic rifle at the White House in Washington D.C., believing himself to be Jesus Christ sent to kill U.S. President Barack Obama, whom he believed to be the antichrist.

Okay. At this point it is fair to ask why I bring up all these people in the context of Donald Tr-mp. After all, Tr-ump doesn’t claim to be Jesus or some kind of “prophet” of Jesus—although some prominent members of the Religious Right believe he was, indeed, sent by Image result for vote illegalGod to save America, and Reverend Franklin Graham, speaking at Tr-ump’s inauguration, said the rain that was falling was “a sign of God’s blessing.” 

Here’s why I bring up the sick people, some living and most long dead, on that Wikipedia list. It’s because almost all of us, if we were exposed to the words and deeds of those people, would, without having to consult a psychiatrist, judge them as sick. We wouldn’t pretend otherwise. We wouldn’t hesitate. We wouldn’t give them the benefit of any doubt. We could make such a judgment with our own common sense. And we certainly wouldn’t indulge or tolerate their fantasies and delusions if they held important jobs.

Well, Donald Tr-mp holds the world’s most important job. And among the countless other lies and conspiracies he has peddled over the years, he has told us more than once—as President of the United States now—the absolute lie that millions of votes were cast illegally in 2016’s presidential election. His press secretary told us on Monday the following, when asked about that delusion:

The President does believe that, I think he’s stated that before, and stated his concern of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have brought to him.

Unable to cite any of those imaginary studies or offer any imaginary evidence, Spicer, after reporters kept pressing him, continued to maintain that Tr-mp “has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has” and hinted that the new administration might investigate what amounts to a delusion in Tr-mp’s mind. Today at another presser, Spicer suggested there might be something like a “task force” to look at election fraud that, again, is in the imagination of a disturbed man and some of his equally disturbed followers, like Alex Jones and others at Infowars, which is the “source” for many of Tr-mp’s delusions.

I just want to make this clear. We can all see that Tr-mp is peddling a Big Lie. There isn’t any debate at all about that. The question is why is he doing it? There are two possibilities: 1) He either knows it is a lie, in which case he is purposely trying to deceive millions and millions of Americans—and others around the world living in wobbly democracies themselves—as a way of protecting his already-damaged ego, or 2) He actually believes the Big Lie, in which case he is dangerously gullible and deluded. Which is worse? Either way he is, as I said, a disturbed man.

I like the way Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior advisor to President Obama, put it in a Tweet today:

Here’s where we are: Trump is deeply disturbed, his aides enable him, and the US government now makes policy to alleviate his insecurities

You can see how dangerous it is to have a man in charge of a lethal military, not to mention lethal nuclear weapons, to be so disturbed that policy makers and aides have to worry about alleviating his insecurities. But that’s the world in which we now live. We literally have to worry that Tr-mp doesn’t wake up one day and see something on CNN or kim-jong-unsome other cable news outlet that pisses him off—which outlets he reportedly watches day and night—to such a degree he does something that used to be unthinkable but no longer is.

Even without a medical degree, we who have watched Tr-mp closely for months and months can see he isn’t normal. He isn’t tethered to reality in important ways. His behavior, fairly or unfairly, has been compared to Hitler. He has received a lot of well-deserved criticism for praising Vladimir Putin and has been compared to him in style. But perhaps closer to the truth is that his authoritarian impulses and his emotional instability are more like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who, as reported, also has thin skin:

North Koreans have been warned of strict action if they make any satirical comments directed at their leader Kim Jong-un or his governance. In a bid to clamp down on criticism, the isolated nation told its citizens to not use sarcasm even in their everyday casual conversation for they “will not be forgiven”.

Authorities reportedly organised mass meetings across the country to issue warnings.

We are a long way from becoming a rich version of North Korea, obviously. But we are not a long way from having a leader whose skin is so thin he overreacts to the slightest criticism, whose ego is so fragile and vulnerable that his focus is on counter-punching and vengeance, whose mind is so disordered and detached from reality that he encourages wild conspiracies and “alternative facts,” whose press secretary has said in trying to defend him that “sometimes we can disagree with the facts.” We may be light years away from being North Korea, but we are only a stone’s throw from having a leader who would feel at home governing such a place.

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